Adorned with sashes, decorated caps and black gowns, the graduating class of 2018 walked a long path to the intramural fields last week. For many, receiving their diploma was the last stage in their college career.
Departing from the usual ceremony in the central quad, this year’s graduation featured a new alma mater song and was the first commencement to be held in the intramural fields.
According to the Long Beach Press Telegram, over 12,000 students received their degrees this spring, a record for the university.
The graduates were divided by yellow flags announcing their majors and walked to the sounds of Pomp and Circumstance.
President Jane Close Conoley spoke about the importance of change to the 2018 graduating class spurred by a break in tradition from the usual ceremony, which was held in the central quad.
Conoley’s speech to the college of health and human services, Thursday, addressed ways to deal with change, stating that the lives of the graduating class will be different after the turn of the tassels.
“First… set out the problem, invite ideas and solutions and finally offer a change that is clearly tied to solving a problem people care about,” Conoley said. “These steps may save you a lot of negative emails, I wish I would’ve known that.”
Samantha Neou, an English graduate and journalism minor, didn’t mind the venue but she thought the speeches were out of touch.
“I wish the speeches were at least a bit different…like more tailored to the graduating class,” Neou said. “I think I’ve been watching too many inspirational commencement speeches on YouTube and expect[ed] something more like that. A guest speaker would be nice.”
Initially, the changes to commencement were met with backlash from students, with some publicly rallying with picket signs at the Speaker’s Platform mid-February.
Ronni Ebner, a commencement ceremony worker, said the changes to the event were helpful.
“I think the most obvious improvement is that the venue is closer to all parking structures/lots,” Ebner said in an email. “This allows all guests to have easier access to the venue instead of hiking up the hill!”
Ebner also noted that there was extra security at the event and felt they helped make the event run smoothly.
“Previously, security was done by the student workers which parents/family/guests would not respect their authority,” Ebner said. “With the additional security the venue felt more secure and controlled.”
Alex Laffoon, a graduate in communication studies, said she would have liked the ceremony to have remained at upper campus to continue tradition. But she experienced a flurry of mixed emotions while on campus for the last time during her undergraduate career.
“[I felt] a lot of relief and satisfaction,” Laffoon said. “I do feel a little sad that my college career is over. But I’m very happy to say the least.”
Laffoon lived the busy life of a typical college student. She went to class, worked in retail and had an internship as a mediator at Fullerton court. She attributes much of her success, despite stresses, to the professors in the communication studies department.
“Being a comm. major definitely paved the way for me as far as future work. I truly loved being a comm. major,” Laffoon said. “Shout out to Dr. Kreiser, Dr. Razm, Dr. Hartzell, Dr. Utley, Dr. Derme… and Raven Pfister.”
Like many other graduates, Neou said she is scared of life after college. Other than the journalism department and student organizations such as 22 West Media, she said she feels the university did not really help her with what’s next.
“I wish there was someone who would’ve told me what to prepare for and how things could be, in better detail, as a graduate,” Neou said. “Growing up, I had to learn through friends when to apply for jobs and what sites to use to look for jobs. Why hadn’t I learned about that in a class?”
Jhaicelle Laron-Serrano contributed to this story.